I briefly dated a guy last year who is a wonderful man in many ways: He loves the Lord, is incredibly supportive, has a servant’s heart and is very outgoing. He did a great job of pursuing me from the time we first met. But he was uncomfortable sharing his thoughts about the relationship in a clear way and tended to talk around issues, trying to get a feel for what I thought before he would open up. Even then it was hard for him to get to the point.
He approached our relationship in a very rational way as if it were a logic game – we were compatible because of XYZ, he liked this or that point about me because it could balance out this or that trait in him, etc. All good points, but there seemed to be very little emotion involved in it for him. We discussed this a couple of times, and he said that he believed it was more important to think things through rationally and make sound decisions based on fact. We decided after several months to stop dating for various reasons including these.
We’ve remained casual friends, and he’s recently expressed an interest in getting back together. He’s talked about some of the areas in his life that he’s been working on (such as being open about what he thinks and not waiting to figure out what the other person thinks first).
My concern is that there still seems to be very little emotion involved on his end. He stated that over the past few months he’s occasionally thought about the idea of getting back together, and again he’s given me a list of “logical” reasons why he thinks I would be a good match for him. Wouldn’t he have thought about it more than “occasionally” if this was something that he felt strongly about? Or is this a guy thing that I just don’t understand because I’m a woman, and we think differently?
He is a good man, and I don’t want to keep the door closed on this possibility if there’s no reason to, but I can’t help feeling that something’s missing. I know that men are more logical and not as emotion-focused as women, but shouldn’t there still be a degree of “I’m crazy about this girl” in the heart of a man who wants to pursue marriage with a particular woman?
To move to marriage, there needs to be a mutual affection for and delight in one another. What you interpret as a lack of emotion on his part may be enough to justify moving on, but equally important is your disposition toward him. I worry that your focus on his weaknesses may be blinding you to your own.
I agree with you that a relationship that “looks good on paper,” making logical sense but that lacks the potential for intimacy in real life, is a bad candidate for marriage. It’s quite possible, based on what you’ve written that if you were to get back together with this man, it would be a lot like the first time you dated. He may be more open, with some effort, but he’s still the logical man God made him to be. It’s true that men and women are different, but what you describe sounds more like personality differences. And those differences may be an insurmountable hurdle to marital intimacy.
It’s also possible that God can change your heart toward him, giving you the desire to fit in with him as his helper, as well as filling you with delight in who God made him to be. It’s never wise to turn a man down too quickly, especially for reasons that aren’t deal breakers (like being an unbeliever, or if a believer, struggling with besetting sins or displaying major character flaws). It may be that you need to grow in your understanding of the differences between male and female (this message from John Piper is a fantastic place to start), or that you need to walk this out in the context of a faithful church body. But it’s also possible that you’re not a good fit for each other.
Are you familiar with Focus on the Family’s Adventures in Odyssey? If so, you’ll know the name Eugene. He’s the lovable multi-syllabic using, intellectual character who analyzes his way through life. He leads with his brain, not his heart. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t feel deeply, but that he’s wired to be a thinker. He’s reticent to let his feelings show. Eugene’s lovable, but I wouldn’t want to be married to him (or a man like him). Your guy sounds a lot like him.
Part of cultivating a healthy desire for godly marriage is discerning who is, and who is not, a good candidate; not just for marriage in general, but for marriage to you. (I don’t mean that in a consumeristic way, but that you are seeking to choose one man, rejecting all others, with whom to form a life-long union. You must choose wisely with an eye toward who will be a good fit.) There’s no sin in saying no. In fact, being able to say no, firmly, kindly, gently, but finally, is essential. It is often an under-practiced, underused skill. In an effort to keep one’s options open, to preserve the other’s feelings, or ward off fear of loneliness or failure, precious time, energy and resources are often spent on relationships that will, in the end, not result in marriage. Better to end them now and be moving forward toward a relationship that will.
I said I wouldn’t want to marry a Eugene. But Katrina did. She’s the character in Odyssey who did marry Eugene. Happily so. “There’s someone for everyone,” the saying goes. A good, godly man may make a great husband … for someone else. Not every good, godly man is a good match for you. This isn’t just about how he feels about you, but how you feel about him. Are you able to delight in whom God made him to be? To be awash in affection (or to imagine yourself so once married) for who he is today, as well as who he is, by God’s power, becoming? If not, it is selfish for you to continue to occupy his affections — to remain available as the object of his delight.
Release him to be loved wholeheartedly, to be joined to a woman who is crazy about him! Because clearly, you’re not. There’s nothing wrong with that. But I do think it’s wrong, given your reservations, to start dating him again. You will be acting toward him (tepidly) the very way he’s acting toward you. You are feeling half-hearted, and that’s precisely the thing about him that’s bugging you. This goes back to the Golden Rule: “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31). And conversely, to Matthew 7:3: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”
If you don’t love him the way you want to be loved, and if you can’t imagine doing so, you should release him to be loved fully, selflessly, by another, the way you want to be loved. Then you too will be free to continue praying and preparing for marriage to a man for whom you will be “a suitable helper.”
May God grant you wisdom,
Copyright 2012 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.